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Investigation of Inhaler Maker Requested

Deaths Caused by Defective Asthma Inhalers, Group Charges

WASHINGTON D.C. -- August 24, 2001 -- Seventeen people may have died as a result of defective asthma inhalers manufactured by Schering-Plough, according to Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog organization. The group asked Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, to begin a criminal investigation into the practices of Schering-Plough, including its handling of the recall of 59 million inhalers.

"... Schering-Plough not only failed to recall millions of defective asthma inhalers for three months after learning on January 4, 2000, of a death of a woman using one of these inhalers, but there were many deaths that would have been avoided if there had been an earlier, September, 1999 recall of the 59 million inhalers," charged Sidney Wolfe, MD, the director of Public Citizen's research group. Dr. Wolfe's conclusions were based on an analysis of the inhaler deaths that the company was required to report to the Federal Drug Administration.

The inhaler recall was instituted because the devices may not have contained the asthma medication albuterol. When there is no asthma drug in an inhaler, a patient is unable to treat and stop an acute asthmatic attack, triggering a life-threatening situation.

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